The organ prelude is Pax Vobiscum by Garth Edmundson (1892-1971), an American organist of some fame during his lifetime but sadly forgotten today. Pax vobiscum is a Latin phrase meaning “peace be with you”. Rather than setting a hymn or chant, Edmundson created an original melody, a tone-poem of sorts, designed to transmit the feeling of peace. While some dismiss music in this style as overly sentimental or picturesque, there is a certain charm found in this music. Edmundson was a prolific composer who studied in Paris and Leipzig with some of the best pedagogues of the day before returning to the states and working as a composer and church musician. His large body of music is out of print, but luckily, I’ve been able to collect several of his books from different sources. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I do! In Sunday’s Gospel, Christ brings peace to the afflicted man. How do we experience the peace of Christ?
Our processional hymn, Songs of thankfulness and praise, is one of the most often used and easily recognizable Epiphany hymns. Each verse refers to one of the highlights of the season and ends with the phrase, “God in man made manifest.” In this hymn text, everything is addressed from the star of Epiphany day to the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. While singing this hymn, take time to reflect on the wonderful manifestations of Christ and how they may speak to us today. Verse three speaks of Christ’s miracles, and even specifically references Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus, fully human and fully God, works a miracle by freeing the Capernaum man from the bondage of his brokenness. Do we see miracles today that can heal us as well?
Our offertory motet, Ave Verum Corpus, was composed by W. A. Mozart (1756-1791). A fine example of his sacred music, this piece sets a very old Latin text translated as follows:
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
This text points toward the perplexing and yet wondrous goal of Christ’s earthly ministry. Sacrificed for the sake of love, Christ redeems the human experience and shows us how to live. During the masterful strains of Mozart’s Ave Verum, perhaps think of how the salvific act on the cross gave life to all who embraced Christ’s way. Will we follow Christ’s example by giving life to the world around us? Our second communion hymn, When Christ was lifted from the earth, illustrates this beautifully. The fourth verse, quoted below sums up this week’s musical message very well. Join us this week as we celebrate Christ the peace maker, miracle worker, and life giver.
Thus freely loved, though fully known,
May I in Christ be free
To welcome and accept his own
As Christ accepted me.